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Social Interaction Design

Social Media Paradigm

Social interaction design is social practice-centric. It extends user-centric design approaches by treating the user as socially aware and engaged. By orienting itself to social practices, it views user activity on social media as personal and social routine and pastime. Users use social media to relate to themselves and others, to show and present themselves, to express and talk, to report and tell, to post, comment, and share. When reviewing businesses or products, they are generally aware of their review being a reflection on themselves. Reviews become a means to attract or draw attention to who they are, and through what they review and how, to what they are like. Users put themselves in the company of others, and often define their relationships to members of their audience as friends. Testimonials written say as much about their author and his or her relationship to the person for whom the testimonial is written. And so on. What people do with social media is our focus, and orients the designer's practice.

Social media frame meaningful activities and innovate mediated living


  • The identity of a social media service is thematic
  • Themes communicate What's Going On which tells users
  • How to proceed
  • Career networking and passive job search
  • Dating and flirting
  • Verticals: music, movies, books, pets
  • Shopping, reviewing,"best of" and "new"
  • Classifieds, listings, marketplaces
  • News, feeds, press, blog coverage

Users are more attentive to what others are doing than to what you would have them do

Activities are Social

  • Social media are designed around social activities
  • Activities structure the talk and the action
  • Activities use participants, context, themes
  • These organize who talks, about what, what happens, when and how frequently, for how long
  • All of which must be represented meaningfully
  • And which must be self-sustaining and alive

Actions are social

  • Social action common to social media is linguistic, communicative, representative, attention-getting, inviting, participatory, and responsive
  • These are social acts and action (organized in activities)
  • Ask, question, query, solicit, hint, wink, imply...
  • Recommend, suggest, offer, declare, promote, advertise...
  • Review, opinionate, show off, rant, challenge....
  • Rate, rank, affirm, confirm, accept, approve....
  • Favorite, tag, bookmark, link, share....


  • The system organizes interaction through its:
  • Presentation of users (personal, professional, etc.)
  • Their contributions (conversation, opinions, announcements, etc.)
  • Layout and navigation (focus on people, posts, media, etc.)
  • Use of representations and visual languages (tokens, icons, gifts, products, lists, etc.)
  • Management of time (fast, slow, ephemeral, archived, etc.)
  • Representation of collective use and community


  • What makes an expert depends on who decides what expertise is, who can have it, and how it's validated?
  • Consumer and end-user experts are often motivated for their own reasons to sustain reputations and demonstrate knowledge and experience
  • These passions can be harnessed by social media, often to the benefit of a brand and its audience
  • Social media produce expertise in two ways: by making experts easier to find; and by validating their expertise
  • Domain experts findable in real time can provide advice and help to those who need it, when they need it
  • Professional communities of expertise may be fortified or undermined by social media

Related blog posts

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